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Real Girl Leaders: Ciara Sheerin - Equal Opportunities in Sports!

This summer, the Girls' Leadership arm of GLOW is working hard to implement our winning IGNITE Change Project.  In April, our IGNITE Change Initiative awarded 9 additional finalists with scholarships and prizes.   We wanted to share their insightful ideas for community change.  Each Wednesday we will share one winning essay in our new Real Girl Leaders Series.

All essays are an actionable, fund-able community change plan answering the question "If you had one year and one thousand dollars what would you change for women and girls in your school, community or city?"

This week's post is from IGNITE Change Finalist, Ciara Sheerin.  Ms Sheerin is 15 years old and lives in Brighton, MA.  Below she shares her plan to generate change for girls in her community!

Providing Equal Opportunities for Girls Sports in Boston

by Ciara Sheerin


Living and growing up in Boston I was one of few girls to begin playing sports and continue to play into my teen years.  My mom encouraged both me and my brother to try everything from soccer to swimming to softball and baseball; together we have played about ten different sports and later narrowed it down to our favorites.  As I grew up playing all these sports I couldn’t help but notice, even as a child, the difference between girls and boys sports.  Why was it that there were so many more opportunities for boys than girls?  Not only were there more opportunities for boys it seems as though there was more encouragement for them to do so well.  When I decided to focus on swimming and softball my brother decided to focus on tennis, soccer and baseball, but while his sports grew with him, I began to outgrow my sports.  When I entered the senior level for softball the teams in Brighton were almost nonexistent.  When I played one year with two teams, enough to play a game, but not enough for a league and my second year in the age group, we couldn’t even make one.  Luckily for me I had excelled in the sport and had joined multiple teams including a Brighton travel team and later a Boston travel team.  However, girls who didn’t were left with no softball because the level of interest on motivation for girls to play sports in Brighton had declined greatly.  Meanwhile, the boys league of the same age group excelled with large numbers and a large travel team coming out of the age group. 

                In Brighton, and many other places, sports are not catered towards girls.  The only other community sport available in Brighton is soccer.  I coached PAL soccer in Brighton last year in the oldest age group 10-12 year olds.  Out of four teams, only four girls played.  Not only are girls not being encouraged to play in their earlier years, but the lack of sports after age 12 doesn’t allow them to play sports at all when they prove the most valuable in the teen years.  Although softball is only in the spring and a part of the summer I hope that by starting the girls at a young age they will learn enough to play in high school, as well as be encouraged to participate in sports and clubs when they do go to high school.  By playing a sport and developing the skills to do so at their age they will gain the confidence to continue to do so and to even pursue other activities such as clubs, internships, and school teams later.

The problem?  Starting from a young age girls are not encouraged as greatly to play sports based on the old standards of a man’s role and a woman’s role in the industry.  It is that very reason we all watch men’s baseball of men’s football; girls are not traditionally meant to play sports.  Even parent volunteers are lacking in girls’ sports for this very reason, in general the fathers coach the boys teams and the mothers coach the girls’ teams but just a girls today are not raised to play sports, in most cases, neither were their mothers.  IN order to change the status quo, girls from a young age must be encouraged to participate in this sport with a steady coach who has the thorough knowledge to both teach them and provide a love for the game so that they will be motivated to continue playing.  My motivation came from a variety of coaches from the Brighton travel team.  Because of them I continue to play the sport that they taught me to love, and so, I want to do the same for a team of girls.

For my plan, I want to organize a team of 10-12 year old girls from the Fidelis Way Commonwealth Tenants Association as well as the Faneuil Gardens Tenants Association, two low income housing projects in Brighton.  By starting a team of these girls I would be encouraging high risk youth to play sports they usually could not participate in because of the costs.  Also, by creating a full team, girls softball would grow and, if all goes well, they will continue to play throughout their teen years not only to benefit themselves but the community as a whole by adding to the league. 

According to there are many benefits for teenage girls who play sports.  Not only does it keep girls in shape and builds valuable life skills such as teamwork, concentration, and a healthy sense of competition, it also has many other hidden benefits.  For example, girls in sports tend to do better in school.   By playing sports girls often experience improved memory, learning and concentration skills and later they have a higher graduation rate.  Health wise, those who participate in athletics are at a lower risk of developing health problems such as diabetes and even cancer, they are also less likely to smoke or drink.  Finally, play sports can build self-confidence, relieve stress and avoid depression  Many girls today are going on to college after high school,   Often times more girls than boys are, however if given the opportunity to improve outside of the classroom their ability to do greater things will do so as well.  Although college numbers are rising for girls across the country, those numbers are because girls are taking charge of their education.  Although kids in the projects are supposed to have equal opportunities as those who aren’t, they don’t receive the chances out of school to build a resume that will allow them to go to college and succeed.  Given the opportunity to play a sport will vastly improve their chances of continuing their education; sports allow kids to establish lifelong goals as well as fulfill those goals. 

In conclusion, I hope to build a team of girls from low income families in order to teach them to play softball,.   By doing this I hope to encourage them to continue to play throughout their teen years, so that they may improve academically, increase their chances of pursuing higher education, gain confidence, and find something they love and can have fun doing.  


Want to learn more about IGNITE Change or have the chance to learn mre about the ten amazing members of the 2013 Girls' Leadership team?  Want to learn about how YOU can be a 2014 IGNITE Change Finalist with the chance to implement your community change project?  It's easy contact AC Gaughen at today!

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